Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Uffizi and more

Today's big project was the Uffizi Gallery, home to a good number of the paintings I studied in 7th form history, which was probably where my love of art kicked off. I had booked a ticket online after hearing about the queues (and once I got there, I was very glad thereof!) so could only go in at 12 pm - even 10 weeks in advance, which was when I bought the ticket, that was the earliest entrance possible out of timed entrances for 20 ticket-holders every 15 minutes from 9 am!

So before that (I was awakened at 7.30 and made it out of the hostel at 8.30, a blissfully tourist-sparse hour to be wandering the Florentine streets) I adopted yesterday's strategy of wandering more-or-less at random and wound up at the Basilica di Santa Croce, which I assume is Holy Cross church, go Holy Cross! Entrance fee was 5 euros, and I immediately grumpily assessed that it should have been half that, given that half the interior was covered in scaffolding, including the tombs of Dante and Macchiavelli and a Donatello statue being completely covered up. As it happens, though, there was plenty still to see, including Michelangelo and Gallileo's tombs, a museum/gallery with works from the likes of Cimabue and Giotto, and a generally pretty interior.

After this, and after the obligatory daily gelato, this time at Gelateria Vivoli, this city's best according to Lonely Planet (despite my best efforts, I haven't worked my way through enough of the gelaterie to prove this either way, but it was amazing in any case), I set off for the Loggia della Signora, near the Uffizi. This was the original home of Michelangelo's David (now in a gallery somewhere in Florence) - there is still a copy of David and originals of lots of other fab statues here, including one by Cellini, and original Roman statues.

Then it was time for the Uffizi. I still had to queue a short while to convert my internet ticket into a real one, but that had to have nothing on the giant queue snaking around the square of those without tickets. The Uffizi was much-anticipated by me and it is, of course, stuffed with artistic treasures, but I think I'm going to go out on a limb here and say I prefer the Kunsthistorischesmuseum in Vienna and the Royal Museum in Brussels, as well as obvious contenders like the Hermitage and the Louvre. I can't quite put my finger on why... admittedly I was exhausted by the end of my 3 hour visit, but I lasted 5 hours in the Kunsthistorischesmuseum and maybe even longer in the Hermitage. I remember that the audio guide in the KHM was particularly good, while the one in the Uffizi today was probably a little too art-historian-speak (all 'plasticity of form' and 'finely-modelled drapery' and so on) which was illuminating in a scholarly way, perhaps, but didn't really make the paintings come to life or put them in context. Maybe it's the samey-sameness of the Uffizi collection. Not to be one of those philistines who says one you've seen one Madonna and Child, you've seen them all, but the endless repetition does get wearysome after a time, and you find yourself reading the name-card to check whether it's a Name Artist before looking at the painting, which is always a sign that museum fatigue has set in. I don't mean to say that the Uffizi was bad in any way, certainly not, but it doesn't rank up there with my absolute favourites, I'm afraid. And I was annoyed that the Uccello Battle of San Romano panel was away for restoration - I've seen the Paris and London panels, and, Pokemon-hunter-like, was looking forward to the opportunity to catch them all... Ha ha, awesome Pokemon reference!

After the Uffizi, at 3 pm-ish, it was time for some much-needed lunch and an even more necessary sit-down, so I headed across the river on the Ponte Vecchio, home of some amazing jewellery shops and a *lot* of tourists, and found a little place for an unusual meal of meatloaf and onions - aiming to break away from the pizza/pasta tyranny. It wasn't half bad, but I suspect one of those two Italian tyrants may return to rule over my dinner tonight. When it came time to pay, they didn't take credit cards and, embarrassingly, I didn't have enough cash. Bill was 12.50 and I had only 10.60, basically enough for the meal but not the cover charge. Amazingly, the waiter said not to worry about it - no argument, no sense of begrudgement or suspicion on his part. I must say, waiters in Italy are friendly and, in general, people are really nice here, even when dealing with a poco poco Italiano speaking tourist like me.

Finally back at the hostel, time to relax with a book and a lie-down I think, before maybe a late dinner if I'm hungry again tonight. Tomorrow, to the Pitti Palace.

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